Nurses, HEOs overwhelmed

Nurses and health extension officers in Morobe Province are bearing the brunt of ANGAU’s partial closure. The provincial hospital recently scaled down services due to infected health workers.

With traffic diverted to the smaller health centres, nurses and HEOs are now calling for more manpower, proper facilities and adequate medical supplies.

The medical officers had no choice but to come out to the media to make public their longstanding issues of manpower shortage, ill-equipped health facilities and inadequate medical drugs and consumables.

These frontliners are also not immune to COVID-19 as they recently lost a colleague at Lae’s COVID-19 hospital, while a good percentage has been infected.

Nurses Association Morobe president, Siling Awasa, said they are speaking up because these problems will directly affect residents.

“With COVID-19, you’ll need emergency drugs, you’ll need oxygen, you’ll need specialist medical officers and nurses. We have to come public because it’s really hard to get our bureaucrats and politicians to really come down and see the issues of health service delivery right in the community,” nurse Awasa stated.

The health workers are underfunded, under-resourced and have an ageing workforce. Awasa emphasised that their workforce cannot handle the current COVID-19 surge.

She further highlighted the challenges they face with cramped facilities.

“How do you do social distancing when you have a very small facility? How can you do the screening away from patients who are vulnerable to catch the infection? Patients don’t even have privacy.”

Over the years, the health workers were forced to plead for resources, with Awasa questioning why they had to when they are skilled and experienced service providers who can help treat and stop the transmission of diseases.

“We already have a big problem with TB, we already have a big problem with malaria, maternal mortality rate is not improving and then with COVID here, it’s really complicating the situation.”

Morobe’s Nurses Association president said COVID-19 is capitalising on the inefficiencies of PNG’s service delivery, adding it is those with comorbidities – people with more than one disease or condition – who will be greatly affected.

The nurses and health extension officers are requesting an audience with the Morobe Provincial Health Authority on Wednesday, the 7th of April. Their next course of action depends on the outcome of that proposed gathering.

(Nurses Association Morobe president, Siling Awasa, with her colleagues during a press conference on Thursday, April 1st, in Lae)

Carmella Gware